WASHINGTON – Republican presidential hopeful John McCain said Saturday that time is running out on overhauling immigration policy.
"We've got other things to do in the Senate," McCain told reporters. "Hopefully we can come to an agreement, but in all candor — a little straight talk — time is not on our side."
McCain also challenged opponents of the plan to step up.
"The status quo is de facto amnesty — fact," the Arizona senator said. "So for us to do nothing and celebrate the fact that we stopped this legislation, well then those who have a better idea can give it to us. We can consider it and move forward."
A comprehensive plan supported by McCain, President Bush and a group of bipartisan senators fell 15 votes short of the 60 needed on Thursday in a critical test to limit debate and allow a vote on the measure itself. As a result, many in Washington have declared major immigration changes are dead for now.
McCain, though, said it was possible to pass a bill.
He spoke after a town hall event in Newton, where immigration dominated discussion and McCain spent much time defending the stalled proposal.
Opponents of the legislation, he said, are not listening to the public.
"People want us to resolve this issue. The majority of Americans support a comprehensive approach to it," McCain said.
Immigration is a frequent topic at McCain's campaign events in Iowa, where precinct caucuses are expected to launch the presidential nominating calendar in January.
"This is a burning issue," he said. "Every town hall meeting I have there is this kind of deep concern. But there's also a desire to see us do something. They wonder, 'Why won't you fix it?' That's why they send us to Washington. To fix things."